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When you are Manufactured Spending, organization is key. It is very dangerous to not be organized when you are dealing with credit cards, thousands of dollars, and log in information for multiple companies. The purpose of this post is to give you some suggestions to help you stay organized. I use every program that I am suggesting in this post, so if you have any questions, leave me a comment. Disclaimer: Some of the programs in this list offer me a commission based on referrals. Thank you for your support!
Keeping Track of Your Credit
Your credit score is vital in the MS game. If you don’t have good credit or take care of your credit, you won’t be able to get multiple credit cards or cards with high credit limits which will make manufactured spending very difficult. As I mentioned in my previous post, Target is offering one year of credit monitoring, absolutely free. That is a deal that cannot be passed up! That is a great system for keeping track of your credit, however it will not give you your credit score. It is important to know your credit score before applying for a credit card. My rule of thumb is that every 5 points over a 700 credit score is worth one credit card application. There are three credit score monitoring websites I use.
All of these sites are free, but they do require your social security number. Credit Karma shows you your Transunion score and Credit.com/Credit Sesame show your Experian score. My favorite one is Credit Karma, because they update your credit score once a week while the other two only update it once a month. Many credit cards including Discover and Barclay also give you your FICO score for free on your statements, so if you have a card that does that I would suggest checking that monthly as well. It is good practice to know your score from each agency since different credit cards inquire from different banks, either Experian, Transunion, or FICO. You technically don’t need both Credit.com and Credit Sesame since they both get your Experian score, but what I did is sign up for one at the beginning of the month and the other in the middle of the month, that way my Experian score would be updated twice a month. If you don’t want to bother with both sites, I would suggest just getting Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, as those are my favorite.
Keeping Track of Passwords and Memberships
When you start getting multiple credit cards it becomes a real pain to keep track of all the usernames, passwords, and membership numbers, especially if you have a spouse whose information you keep track of as well. That’s where Award Wallet and LastPass come in. Award Wallet keeps track of your reward points for multiple companies, your membership numbers for hotels, and your login information for all of these websites. LastPass does exactly what it sounds like. it keeps track of all of your usernames, passwords, credit cards, passports, and all the other information you may need. Both of these websites are free and are vital when you have multiple rewards accounts. If you are a first time user of Award Wallet you can use this code: free-urxsab to get a free upgrade to premium, which adds a few extra features such as emailing you anytime one of your points balances increases or decreases. As for LastPass, if you sign up through my link above you will get one month of premium for free which gives you access to their mobile app. During the free month of premium I had, I never used the mobile app once, but that is just me. I highly recommend both Award Wallet and LastPass, because i makes remembering all of this information SO much easier.
Keeping Track of Your Spending
This will vary significantly from person to person, so these are just a few suggestions which will hopefully help you figure out a system that works best for you. I use YNAB to keep track of my normal budget and my manufactured spending. It costs $60, but if you go through my referral link you will get $6 off as well as a 30-day trial, so I would suggest trying it out if you are looking for a way to keep track of your budget and credit cards. The other option I have used is Mint. Mint is great for keeping track of your credit cards, 401ks, budget, and many other things. What’s also great is that Mint is free! The thing that bugged me about Mint is all the ads, however you will find that on any free service. I would suggest trying both or even researching a different option as seeing what works best for you.
At the beginning of a month, I set a few goals for myself in regards to MS. I always want to find my monthly vanilla reloads and try to get that done as quick as possible, that is a given. However, some months I will want to max out my Chase Freedom’s 5% category, or find a new prepaid card that I can try out, something to that effect. As long as I have some goals to accomplish that month, I am all set. When I have my goals, I set up a manufactured spending budget in the amount that I think it will actually cost me to carry out these goals. Then, I make a spreadsheet showing how many points I expect to make on each credit card to give me an idea about what my monthly cost per point will be. Now once I have all of that information, I start the process of finishing these goals.
Let’s say my goal for this month was to buy $10,000 worth of Vanilla gift cards, which is my goal every month, since I want to max out mine and Jenni’s Bluebird every month. When I find VRCs I buy as many as possible, because there is usually not more than 4 or 5 cards ($2,000-$2,500 worth). When I get home I label the receipt with a date and a number which I also put on the VRC. I then put the receipt in a folder of receipts and the VRCs in my home safe. That way if I ever need to find a receipt for a certain VRC I can easily look in my receipt folder and find the receipt very quickly. Once I use a VRC I put it into my used VRC folder. With money orders I have a similar process. I put the money order, gift card used to buy the money order, and the receipt all in a plastic bag, staple it shut and write the date on it. As for my budget, I take the fee ($3.95) from my MS fund and transfer it to my Bluebird account which is what I use to pay my credit card bills. Again, this is all personal preference so do whatever works best for you, this is just how I keep track of everything.
I hope these websites come in handy for all of your MS needs. If you find a website I missed leave it in the comments!